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SSIS advice column

Welcome back to the SSIS column, where we answer any and all of Brandeis students’ questions about sex, sexuality, identity and relationships. If you have a question you’d like answered in our next column, email ssis@brandeis.edu or leave a question in the Google Form link on the Student Sexuality Information Service Facebook page. Any and all questions are welcome: there are no bad, stupid or weird questions! 

(Note: These answers are good-faith attempts by SSIS to be helpful to the Brandeis community, and are by no means exhaustive or to be taken as universal. If these answers don’t resonate with you, either pay them no mind or reach out to us with suggestions for improvement!)

How do I prepare to have a difficult conversation with my partner? 

Thank you so much for your question! Having a difficult conversation with a partner can be daunting, but these conversations are incredibly important and often necessary in relationships. 

Before having a difficult conversation, it can be helpful to take some steps to prepare, so you can feel safe and comfortable. This can look like anything from choosing a place to sit with your partner to practicing what you want to say to initiate the conversation.

Additionally, communicating your boundaries with your partner before the conversation begins can help mediate any anxiety or potential for misunderstandings. It can be helpful to think ahead of time about what your boundaries are and what things you might need to feel most comfortable in the conversation. For instance, maybe you know that being interrupted stresses you out, so you could specify at the beginning of the conversation that it would make you feel best if you could get everything you needed to say out before your partner responds. Or, maybe you are sharing something new and vulnerable with your partner and aren’t ready to take questions about it at the moment. In that instance, you could preface the conversation by stating that and elaborating that once you’ve finished communicating what you need to, you’d prefer if your partner could hold off with questions until another specified time of both your choosing. 

Another tip that can be helpful is to think about the specific environment that would make you most comfortable and confident when having this conversation. Perhaps it would be best to have it be semi-public so that there is a lesser chance of raised voices if that’s a concern; or you could have it in their home/room instead of yours so that you have the option to leave instead of having to ask them to leave if you find yourself wanting space afterwards. 

It can be really helpful to take some time before the conversation and think through what it would take for you to get closure. Visualize yourself walking away from the conversation satisfied and then ask yourself what you would need in order for that to happen. What questions do you want to have asked? What points do you want to make sure not to forget? Don’t be afraid to write things down if you need to. 

When having the actual conversation, calmly and confidently explaining your points of view to your partner will allow space for them to process what you are saying, as well as a space for them to explain their sides as well. Using “I” statements like “I feel…” or “I think…” can help frame the conversation in a way that can hopefully keep your partner from feeling the need to be defensive, because you are making statements about yourself, not them. 

All in all, reflection and communication with yourself and with your partner(s) are the best way to prepare to have a comfortable and productive conversation! You got this!

I heard that SSIS applications are open. What does being an SSIS member involve?

Thank you for your question! Being a SSIS member first and foremost entails a desire to learn. We do not require any prior knowledge or experience to become a member, which means that accepted applicants are people who are excited to learn about all aspects of what we do, teach and provide support in—gender, sex, sexuality, sexual health, pleasure, contraception, kink, anatomy, relationships and more! SSIS members never approach our work from a place of judgement, but rather of seeking to understand where our community members are at when they come into our office and how we can best serve them. We expect the same from those who we accept into our group. 

From a more logistical perspective, SSIS is a volunteer position, which requires a minimum of seven hours per week of members’ time. These seven hours are divided between weekly office hours, our weekly meetings and committee work. What’s really nice is that as a member you have a say over when you schedule your office hours, so you can schedule them whenever is best! 

In addition to office hours and our weekly meetings, SSIS members are expected to variably put in work to contribute to our programming and services. A lot of this work is brought to the group as a whole and then volunteered for by people who feel like they can take it on that week or that month. Some of the things this might entail are collaborating with another club on campus to put together a fun and informative sex positive event, running one of our social media campaigns or researching books to add to our library. More often than not, these are really fun projects that help us engage with our community and fulfill our mission; and just as SSIS strives to meet community members where they’re at, we do our best to meet our members where they’re at as well—making sure we find a balance where everyone is contributing but no one feels spread too thin. 

If you have any more questions about applications or what it means to be an SSIS member, don’t hesitate to reach out!

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